Kilmarnock denies Arbroath fairy tale as late brace rocks Rugby Park on night of Championship drama

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It seemed to everyone that it was happening, but the fairy tale is over.

Arbroath almost managed an incredible result at Kilmarnock which would have put them in control of the league title and automatic promotion to the top flight.

Instead, Killie wrapped it all up tonight.

Ash Taylor’s equalizer was a dagger in the heart. But their hearts were torn in two when Blair Alston finished calmly as everyone around him lost his temper.

There was so much to roll on this one, with the home team desperate not to let the final day pass, and the visiting team wanting to do just that.

Ahead of the match, there were predictions of a delayed kick-off, as crowds gathered outside.

Local fans enjoyed a refreshment at the Park Hotel, just outside the ground, and the streets around it were lined with excited punters.

Yes, they were excited. You could feel it. But there was also nervous tension in the air.

Nevertheless, the predictions were of a victory for Killie. 2-1, 3-1, you name it. But still for that man Kyle Lafferty to score.

The visitors were also confident, and why wouldn’t they be after the incredible season they’ve had. They hadn’t conceded a goal for the Ayrshire men until tonight.



Dick Campbell was gutted

The teams went out in a noisy atmosphere worthy of the occasion. Rugby Park was rocking and the maroon legion in the upper tier of Chadwick Stand were more than playing their part.

Ayrshire Killie wanted us to know they were about to put on a show, but the Smokies let us know they were there too. They always do.

It was also a quick start on the park. Arbroath was brilliant but Kyle Lafferty had the first good chance for the home side, forcing a save from Derek Gaston.

Moments later, they were behind. A dazzling Red Lichties counter saw Scott Stewart launch into a right lunge and fire it for James Craigen to drive him over the line.

The outer end absolutely popped, as you would expect.

The natives were stunned but they stayed behind their men, a handful of encouraging applause circulating after the shock wore off.

But over time, this good will faded. Killie struggled to deal with his opponents on the counter and that translated into the stands.

They should have been further behind just before half-time when Michael McKenna found Luke Donnelly in front of goal, but he didn’t get enough on his effort.

They came out of the traps in the second half and Blair Alston was denied by Gaston. From the resulting corner, Chris Stokes should have done better than sending his volley towards the half of the corner.

The faithful were behind the players again – but not the referee. John Beaton had already irritated them in the second half and there was fury when he failed to award a penalty to Fraser Murray who went into the box.

Was Killie playing like Derek McInnes walked through them in the locker room? Yes they were. But Arbroath always knew what was at stake too and the tackles were flying.

Then Beaton changed his mind, going from a corner kick to a goal kick. Eruption.

Gaston did nothing to improve the mood as he continued his superman performance to deny Shaw.

A few heads were as good as it gets for a while, with Lafferty getting the closest.

Then they celebrated when they had the ball in the net, but the linesman’s flag was up long before that. Maybe they just wanted their moment if they knew it was going to be stolen.

It wasn’t long before that happened, Ash Taylor finally stabbed Chris Burke’s corner.

It was more like that for the supporters and the roof was lifted. The noise also wouldn’t stop and the place was popping.

It would have taken the next week, but they didn’t stop there and Alston sent the place into rapture.

The party could really begin then – although the exuberance of a massive pitch invasion delayed the presentation of the trophy.

And after that, there was even time for a rousing rendition of paper roses.

For Arbroath, there are still the play-offs.

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